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Colombia: humanitarian crisis

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  • World View <ummyakoub@yahoo.com>
    The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) - Canada National Union focus: Colombia is facing a humanitarian crisis Every three days on average
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 2, 2003
      The National Union of Public and General Employees
      (NUPGE) - Canada

      National Union focus:
      Colombia is facing a humanitarian crisis

      Every three days on average a trade union leader is
      killed in Colombia

      Colombia is a small country in South America, known
      for its great beauty, the generosity of its people and
      the wealth of its natural resources.

      Colombia is also in the midst of a humanitarian crisis
      on the scale of Kosovo, Rwanda and Guatemala. To date
      this crisis has gone largely unnoticed by the global
      community. The National Union is committed to helping
      popular movements in Colombia achieve real social

      Violence and Colombia are synonymous in the minds of
      many. Yet little of the violence within the country is
      related to its "military" objectives. Rather, the
      violence is perpetrated against unarmed campesinas,
      workers, and the leaders of trade unions and popular
      social movements.

      More than 80% of the casualties of the "war" in
      Colombia are civilians. It has been estimated that the
      guerrilla movements are responsible for about 5% of the
      deaths, the army for about 10% and paramilitary forces
      for about 85%. A quick look at the statistics speaks

      - A union leader is assassinated every 3 days on
      average in Colombia, accounting for the vast majority
      of all trade unionists killed worldwide.

      - More than 2.5 million campesinas have been forced
      from their land by economic conditions, fumigation
      and, most importantly, intimidation by the right-wing
      paramilitary forces.

      - 1.5 million displaced people are living in Bogota alone,
      many in appalling conditions in shanty towns. Almost
      half the displaced in Bogota are Afro-Colombian or

      - Between 1986 and 1995, 45,000 people died as a direct
      result of the war, including 36,000 civilians. One
      person is murdered every 15 to 20 minutes, on average.

      - Paramilitary groups (as the government has officially
      acknowledged) have grown by more than 80% within the
      past year, expanding their influence across 40% of the entire

      Public sector unions face special challenges

      Approximately 42% of Colombia's budget goes to service
      foreign debt and another 30% to finance its police and
      military. Under pressure from the International
      Monetary Fund and World Bank, the government is being
      forced to change the constitution and roll back its
      support for health and education.

      Public sector unions are struggling with privatization
      and wage freezes. Laws make it difficult to organize
      workers by sector, so the union movement remains quite

      Feneltrase, the federation representing state workers,
      has 70 affiliated unions. CUT, Colombia's central
      labour body, has almost 750 affiliates.

      Plan Colombia

      United States has taken an active interventionist role
      in Colombia. As part of its 'War on Drugs', and also
      through Plan Colombia, and now the Andean Initiative,
      the U.S. has poured billions of dollars into the hands
      of the Colombian armed forces.

      However, much of this has gone to finance paramilitary
      groups closely associated with the army, as well as
      large landowners and transnational corporations.

      Seeking a just and lasting peace

      All the organizations within the popular movement are
      acutely aware of recent peace negotiations in Guatemala
      and El Salvador and their failure to address the
      underlying causes of inequality and injustice in

      A common theme is that peace negotiations in Colombia
      must include representatives of indigenous, campesinas,
      Afro-Colombian, women's and other social movements.

      Think things can't get any worse - think again!

      Following the terrorist attacks of September 11th, the
      Bush government announced that, under the guise of
      fighting terrorism, it was increasing its efforts to
      provide military training and equipment to Colombia.
      This is in addition to the current funding to the
      Colombian government's "War on Drugs." The U.S.
      government has given millions of dollars in military
      aid to the Colombian military despite that government's
      continued failure to meet human rights conditions that
      were outlined by the U.S. Congress.

      On August 7, 2002, Alvaro Uribe Velez assumed the
      Colombian Presidency with a promise to intensify his
      government's efforts to defeat the guerillas. Uribe was
      strongly endorsed by Colombia's paramilitary groups and
      his past record as Governor was noted for inaction on
      extreme levels of right-wing paramilitary violence.

      Currently there is a growing human rights crisis in the
      Northern Cauca region. Northern Cauca, noted for its
      remarkable experiments in resistance to neoliberalism
      and in the actual construction of alternatives in the
      hemisphere, not to mention a courageous and unarmed
      struggle for peace, is being bombarded by both the
      FARC, a guerilla army, and the Colombian government.



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